North Dakota-Kansas Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- Kansas spent much of its last game refining the little things it needs to do to be successful in Big 12 play. The 17th-ranked Jayhawks likely will do more of the same Saturday when they host North Dakota.
Coach Bill Self's team made quick work of Howard in an 89-34 victory Thursday that was little more than a glorified practice since no starter logged more than 22 minutes. The Jayhawks (9-3) limited the Bison to 13 first-half points and 22.2 percent shooting overall while forcing 24 turnovers.
"I won't put a lot of stock in it," Self said. "From an energy standpoint, we played faster, more energy, seemed a little more athletic. Other than that, I wouldn't spend a lot of time on it."
The one area on which Self may focus for this game is his team's rebounding at the defensive end. Kansas allowed Howard to grab 16 offensive boards, the fourth straight game it has allowed at least eight and the sixth time this season an opponent has reached double digits.
"The thing that disappoints me... is we're getting ready to open Big 12 play - we've done a good job of leading the league by far in defensive rebound percentage - and to come out and let that team get 16 offensive rebounds," he said. "We just didn't hit anybody. I think a lot of it may be respect, but we didn't go after the ball.
"That's something we have to really emphasize before we get into league play, but we have to focus in on beating North Dakota first."
Kansas opens its Big 12 schedule on Wednesday against Kansas State, a team which is 10-1 and finished just outside the Top 25 this week.
Jayhawks senior Thomas Robinson is averaging team highs of 16.7 points and 11.4 rebounds, while guards Tyshawn Taylor (15.1 ppg) and Elijah Johnson (10.2) also are scoring in double figures. Taylor has averaged 8.5 assists over the past four games.
The Sioux (5-7) arrive in Lawrence having lost five of six, with all of their defeats coming on the road. North Dakota has been idle since a 68-46 defeat at Western Illinois on Dec. 23, failing to recover after the Leathernecks shot 7 of 10 from 3-point range in building a 37-19 halftime lead.
North Dakota has some size to counter Robinson with 6-foot-11 center Mitch Wilmer, who has started the last three games, but starting forward Patrick Mitchell - averaging 11.4 points and 1.8 blocks - will miss this game due to injury.
Jamal Webb, who has a team-high 42 assists and is third on the team in scoring at 11.6 points per game, is expected to play after missing the Western Illinois loss due to a family funeral.
Kansas has won both meetings, including a 108-77 rout at North Dakota in the most recent game in 2001.
Updated December 30, 2011